Tonight’s Rediffusion, London… in 1965 

23 August 2017 tbs.pm/12831

The TVTimes tells us what was on Rediffusion on Monday 23 August 1965. Things worth noting include:

It isn’t every week that an ex-ITV continuity announcer makes it onto the front cover of the TVTimes, especially an out-of-area edition, but Bernard Youens achieves just that this week.

One of the Granada’s first announcers in 1956, Bernard’s velvet-toned voice charmed weekday viewers on both sides of the Pennines. He declined the chance to audition for Coronation Street when it launched in 1960, preferring the security of his Granadaland announcer’s role, but eventually landed a role in “Corrie” in 1964. As the character Stan Ogden, he first uttered the words “A pint of mild and 20 fags, missus” in June that year.

By 1965, thanks in no small measure to the partnership of Stan and Hilda Ogden, Coronation Street was the cornerstone to ITV’s peak-time schedule twice a week, and Granada’s soap was destined to outlive and outshine ATV’s Emergency – Ward 10.

Turning to the programme listings for Monday, 23rd August, 1965, Rediffusion – “London’s television”, as it unashamedly proclaimed itself on-air – banished ATV’s Crossroads to opening its afternoon programmes. Such was the politics between ITV contractors, that Meg Richardson and the motel staff were denied the 6.30pm London slot in favour of an American import – a short-lived comedy/drama from NBC called Kentucky Jones starring Dennis Weaver. Weaver had become famous as Marshall Dillon’s helper, Chester Goode, in the CBS western classic Gunsmoke.

Programmes for younger viewers traditionally began at 4.45pm with the portmanteau name Small Time. This Monday, Smallfilms’ stop-motion series Pingwings about a family of penguin-like characters held little children enthralled. The films were only 10 minutes long, so Rediffusion’s female continuity announcer, Muriel Young, who started with Associated-Rediffusion back in the 1950s, filled the extra minutes talking to a glove-puppet by the name of Pussy Cat Willum. Even though Small Time was part-networked, Willum never seemed to acquire the national fame or affection enjoyed by other puppets like ATV’s Tingha and Tucker, Westward’s Gus Honeybun or Channel’s Oscar Puffin. Yet the kitten was an important part of my childhood, for one.

ATV’s Seeing Sport, always a networked outside broadcast, had a firm grip on the 5pm Monday slot. Presented initially by Peter Lloyd and then a “cooler” Liam Nolan, it began as a short-notice filler when another programme failed to arrive. It was billed as a programme for young sports enthusiasts, and was a surprise success, watched by nearly 3 million viewers. It always contained a deliberate mistake (as well as a few accidental ones!): one week, over 6,000 children spotted Jimmy Greaves’ being described as Chelsea’s centre-forward, instead of inside-forward.

At 5.25pm each weekday, the network relaxed its hold on the regions and “local programming” took over. This was the opportunity for smaller stations to make their offerings to their local viewers, and neighbouring ones: Southern Television’s Three Go Round and TWW’s Movie Magazine, for example. London viewers got an American comedy.

The ITN early evening news brought all the regions back together for 13 minutes. THIRTEEN minutes?? Nowadays we would be thinking: how could they have fitted all the “national and international news” into just 13 minutes? At the time, I am sure the worry sometimes was: is there enough news to fill 13 minutes?!

After the news, the weather. In the immediate post-war years, if you wanted to know if it was going to rain tomorrow, clearly you still had to ask an RAF chap. Dapper Squadron Leader Laurie West’s hobby during his years of service had been meteorology: he taught it to air crews. The perfect man to tell Enfield housewives if their washing would dry on the line tomorrow, what?

And then local news. Of course. Except Rediffusion considered that all the news from ITN was essentially London’s news… so no need for yet more news. Clearly, the ITA became unhappy with this, and Three After Six was born. Three people would discuss topical subjects live, for London viewers only – I recall Benny Green, Alan Brien, and Dee Wells holding court. Even as a teenager, I found the programme engaging: the three had interesting ideas, and the discussion proceeded at a pace. Would I have been interested in what had been happening in Croydon or Harrow that day? Probably not.

All Our Yesterdays was a genius of an idea from those bright young things at Granada. Re-run the old cinema news footage from 25 years ago (the Second World War was very much still going on, 25 years previously!) with a laconic commentary from Brian Inglis. All the hard work had been done a quarter of a century earlier – if it was a quiet week for war news, there would be an amusing feature on those plucky housewives on the Home Front back in Blighty. Surely the series could be re-run after 50 and 75 years, still with Inglis’ thoughts? Indeed, it’s the basis of the History channel today.

Coronation Street needs no comment. Suffice it to say, as you scan down the list of characters in Monday night’s programme, remember scriptwriter Tony Warren’s vision. He brought the likes of Ena Sharples to our screens, Minnie Caldwell, Martha Longhurst, Elsie Tanner, Annie Walker… Ken Barlow, Albert Tatlock, Jack Walker, Len Fairclough… I’ve not watched the programme in more than 30 years, yet the names of the early characters are still engraved on my memory. It was great writing, and great television.

And on from Corrie, at 8 o’clock on a Monday night, to World In Action or some other hard-hitting current affairs series from Granada… But no! Was this the summer hiatus, or had Granada not yet fully established its inalienable right to the slot? Riviera Police from Rediffusion was one of a number of attempts to create an adventure or crime series set in an “exotic” location, in this instance, the South of France. Somehow, Rediffusion never had the magic touch possessed by ATV/ITC with The Saint or ABC’s The Avengers. The results were just embarrassing. Humanely, Riviera Police was put down after just one series.

The main news, all 15 minutes of it, was followed by The Dick Van Dyke Show – correction, The Dickie Henderson Show. A light, comedy show with a song-and-dance man in the leading role. At least Henderson could do a decent Cockney accent.

One of the finest aspects of British television in the early years of ITV was the play, 60- or 90-minutes long. Many of the world’s great actors appeared in such productions, and these plays attracted much acclaim from critics – and not inconsiderable audiences. This week, announced as “From Norwich, it’s the Play of the Week…” (Oh, surely not!), an Anglia Television production. The East Anglia franchise holder carved a series of niches for itself in ITV: Survival was its nature series that, for a while, gave the BBC Natural History department a run for its money; there was the occasional play like tonight’s, and some memorable and very popular quiz shows.

And then there was Weavers Green.

How petty, though, of Rediffusion to claim credit for networking the play! Simply because, at that time, the GPO had not installed lines to enable a signal to be sent from Norwich to the network control centre; there was just one in the opposite direction.

After a lightweight, comedy documentary (a chance to pillage the ATV/ITC film library?), the evening’s television starts drawing to a close with a 2-minute news summary, then ITN part-networks a 10-minute “in depth” feature on one of the news items of the day. The fore-runner to BBC2’s “Newsnight” or even ITV’s “News at Ten”? Given that Telstar had heralded the era of sending pictures from the USA to UK just three years earlier, it must have been with some pride that Peter Woods was billed as reporting from America.

And finally… the Epilogue! Almost every ITV station ended its broadcast day with a religious message, delivered live. It must have been bizarre to have ended the day with a security man, a continuity announcer, a presentation engineer and a clergyman as the sole people in the building! But sometimes… life’s like that, isn’t it…?

Good night everyone. Good night.

(Rousing verse of “God Save The Queen”, with footage of Her Majesty visiting somewhere local.)

And don’t forget to switch off your sets. Once again, good night.


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20 responses to this article

Arthur Nibble 23 August 2017 at 11:17 am

I never realised Bernard Youens had been a continuity announcer. Thanks for that gem.

I also didn’t realise until I checked that “Just Dennis” was an American version of Dennis the Menace.

Norman Wisdom in the listings, and on our screens briefly last weekend with repeated footage of THAT Sunday Palladium show, which featured only Bruce Wisdom and Norman Forsyth according to the comedic starting caption.

David Heathcote 23 August 2017 at 2:39 pm

An unexpected delight of writing a piece like this is that The Wise Ones at Transdiffusion.org can lay their hands on so many television themes tunes from days of yore. I’ve not heard the opening of “The Dickie Henderson Show” for fifty years, but the memories come flooding back. And as for “Riviera Police” – well, the percussion on that always sounded to me like cats fighting in a kettle drum. I fear I am beyond hope.

Richard Jones 23 August 2017 at 3:05 pm

I suspect that compared to the Saint or the Avengers, which depended on their sale to the USA – Riviera Police had a far smaller budget!

Jeremy Rogers 23 August 2017 at 3:11 pm

The agreement between Anglia and Rediffusion so that the latter provided a networked outlet for the former’s drama went right back to its early days. A guaranteed peak time slot for eight dramas a year was something the other minors could only dream of. They tended to be very popular too, outranking the average ratings for single-play drama from ATV, Rediffusion, and Granada.

Mark Jeffries 23 August 2017 at 7:14 pm

I think I’ve pointed out elsewhere that “Kentucky Jones” was unusual for an American sitcom in that its first 13 episodes did not have the canned laughter that was standard at the time for all sitcoms, whether shot with a studio audience and multiple cameras and with the audience response “sweetened” or shot like a feature film with one camera. Supposedly, both Dennis Weaver and producer Buzz Kulik (who would direct several landmark TV films in the 70s) were firmly against a laugh track, but when the ratings were bad, NBC said that they wouldn’t pick up the back 13 episodes unless there was a laugh track, so in came Charley Douglass and his “Laff Box” to put in those overfamiliar audience responses for the final 13 episodes (including this one listed above, episode 17). It would take another 20 years before canned laughter disappeared from one-camera American sitcoms forever (with the occasional exception of a series made for children on either Nickelodeon, Disney or Cartoon Network).

Alan Keeling 23 August 2017 at 9:18 pm

Just Dennis was the British title for for the US series called Dennis the Menace, the reason for the change of title was there would have been confusion with the British comic strip character as seen in “The Beano” The 5.25 episode of from season 3 (1961/62) with guest star John Austin prior to The Addams Family.

Alan Keeling 23 August 2017 at 9:25 pm

When Dennis Weaver finished playing Chester in Gunsmoke, he then took the leading role as Kentucky Jones (1964/65), which ran for one season only. From 1967 to 1969, Dennis Weaver starred in Gentle Ben, a family series about a young boy & his pet bear.

Kif Bowden-Smith 23 August 2017 at 10:34 pm

The sig tunes to which David generously refers were in our case often recorded live at the time with an audio tape recorder (the only way of domestic tv recording by viewer in 1965) and a cheap microphone on the carpet by the TV set… It’s good to use these originals we taped ourselves rather than the inevitable poor cover versions often sold on compilation LPs of tv themes at the time.

Geoff Nash 24 August 2017 at 7:52 am

Rescue the networking arrangements between Anglia and Rediffusion were there any on-screen notifications of this, maybe in the form of an endcap or a note in the end credits?
I have seen something similar between Westward and ATV.

Arthur Nibble 24 August 2017 at 8:56 am

An irrelevant fact, but hey… if you took the initials of Bernard Youens’ name, then replaced that of his real surname with the one starting his stage name, he would have had the initials “BARMY”!

Joanne Gray 24 August 2017 at 7:26 pm

Like Arthur Nibble, I too am stunned to learn of Bernard Youens’ pre-Corrie career. Does anyone have any recordings of his time in the continuity booth, by any chance? As a younger viewer (born in 1971 and having grown up the Tyne Tees region) I would love to hear what he sounded like compared to Stan’s monosyllabic, grunting, alcohol and tobacco honed tones.

Paul Mason 25 August 2017 at 6:53 am

Stan, Hilda and from the mid 1970s Eddie were for me the Holy Trinity of the Street (some would also say Ena, Martha and Minnie).
I remember Pussy Cat Willum, as well as Fred Barker and Ollie Beak. Fred Barker did a stint with Ayshea Brough on her pop shows.
All Our Yesterdays, fascinating programme where I learnt about WW2. However you won’t get Brian Inglis back because he died in 1993 after faxing his friend Bill Grundy’s obituary to the Guardian.
In the 1970s Dennis Weaver played McCloud, a country police officer assigned to the big city.

Kif Bowden-Smith 27 August 2017 at 12:36 am

Bernard Youens was of course an actor and said he enjoyed the astonishment of those meeting him for the first time discovering that he had a refined and middle class voice (as did the actress who played his wife Hilda Ogden; …Jean Alaxander)

He was interviewed on Russell Harty once and said that he occasionally slipped back into his fictional Stan Ogden voice, because people were sometimes utterly bewildered to find that he was in person, rather different from Stan Ogden. He and Jean Alexander both had fun with this side effect of acting! His real voice was entirely suitable for announcing..

Kif Bowden-Smith 27 August 2017 at 12:40 am

I thought Riviera Police was quite good at the time, so was surprised when David said it was embarrassing… But then again, I was only 12 at the time and my critical faculties were not quite the well developed machine they are 50+ years later….

Paul Mason 27 August 2017 at 6:45 am

There were a couple of title changes for US imports. I don’t know if Thomsons of Dundee had the copyright for UK use of “Dennis the Menace”. It was fortunate the Beano got in first in 1951 when the strip started, otherwise the US studio which made their DTM would have blocked it.
Top Cat was another, called Boss Cat rather stupidly because the theme song starts TOP CAT etc. Top Cat was a brand of tinned cat food which the BBC were squeamish about accidentally promoting but the fact that Officer Dibble and the gang called him TC gives the game away.

David Heathcote 27 August 2017 at 1:59 pm

In 1965, I was 16. It didn’t take much to embarrass me!! However, I seem to recall a lot of the “Riviera” was a studio in Wembley. It was fifty years ago – I could be very wrong.

Kif Bowden-Smith 27 August 2017 at 11:52 pm

I could be very wrong and you very right, David!
Pleasing to learn that we are both critical facultied pensioners together now though.
I was easily pleased at 12… 🙂

Sarah Morris 11 September 2017 at 6:06 pm

I See the Test Card was shown from 10.15 to 3.45. Daytime viewing at it’s best and better than whats shown today. I wonder if it was C or D that was shown. My guess is D as I think C went in 64.

Geoff Nash 27 September 2017 at 9:58 pm

Although Small Time was part networked I believe the regions that took it only took the core programme. Being able to receive Southern as well as Rediffusion at the time (and constantly -and curiously- switching between the two) I can’t recall Muriel and Willum appearing in the south.

Steve Conway 20 November 2017 at 7:47 pm

Was Crossroads initially shown at 6.35 along with ATV but only sent to 4.20 in August 1965………..Or did Rediffusion always show it at 4.20?
Thames completely dropped it when they took over only to reinstate it six months later much helped by Mrs Wilson

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